Things Every Association Leader Should Know about Tech and Digital Transformation

Our continued conversations with nonprofit and association leaders has led us to explaining what we feel are the key components to digital transformation.
My favorite commercial of all time was Apple’s Think Different campaign…
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Association leaders are natural dreamers and change agents. Meeting the needs of members whose expectations are shaped by the gig- and sharing economies relies upon new thinking about how and when to adopt disruptive technologies.  As a catalyst for change, technology can be either disruptive or transformative. Here are some things every association leader should consider when harnessing association technology.
Think Different – the pace of business and technology change has reached hyper-speed.  Game changing new technologies push us to innovate and adapt at an increasingly rapid pace.  It is no longer adequate to benchmark our technology against other organizations.  If we choose to innovate and create new service models to meet the needs of our members, we must think beyond IT maturity models and ‘old school’ methodologies.  These methods merely tell us when we have ‘caught up’ with the pack, not when we are leading it. Association leaders should ensure that their organizations are evaluating technology holistically and inclusively.  If technology is not a core competency for your organization, then fill the gap.  Include visionary technology staff, consultants and volunteers in the strategic planning process from the beginning.  The core competencies for leading the pack with association tech are strategic planning, change management and operations management.
Think about the Journey – associations face competition for mindshare from many sources.  Information resources are abundant and readily available in the digital age.  We must not only meet the needs of our members… we must meet those needs in ways that delight them.  Association leaders must develop core competencies in service design and journey mapping.  This requires that we think not only quantitatively (clicks and visits), but qualitatively (positive or negative touchpoints).  In the ‘app age’, user experience with your association is a determinative factor in loyalty and engagement.  Consider how you will gain competency with the service design methods that will delight and engage your members.
Think Cloud – quantum increases in bandwidth have pushed cloud technology to the fore.  Harnessing technology is no longer a function of buying, configuring and maintaining physical servers.  It is now possible to buy virtually any application ‘as a service’ in the cloud.  The value proposition of this capability relates to the allocation of resources.  When staff are no longer watching blinking lights on physical boxes, we can commit more resources to building solutions.  Implementation time for new products and services are significantly shorter utilizing cloud technology, and we are no longer saddled by sunk costs sitting in server rooms that must be depreciated.  Associations that aggressively adopt cloud technologies will reap productivity benefits, shorter cycle times and more reliable operations.
Think about Community – engagement is the holy grail of associations.  The average person now looks at their phone 100+ times a day.  We segment our digital / social interactions into silos that mimic our personalities.  Facebook for friends and family, LinkedIn for professional, and increasingly more often, very targeted communities that engage us in specific mission-driven content.  Successfully engaging association members in digital communities requires us to think about content curation, message taxonomy, and user experience.  True engagement requires that we create digital communities that support the organic generation of content, curate that content into meaningful contexts, and support consumption of content across all the devices and channels of our audience.
Think about the Future – one look at the horizon tells us that more disruption is upon us.  The Internet of Things (IoT) will connect more devices in the next five years than the sum total of connected devices since the inception of the internet.  Blockchain technology (the brains behind Bitcoin) is poised to transform the banking, logistics, construction, retail and communications industries.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) will increasingly identify patterns in data that will provide us with amusing and amazing insights. Robotics will increasingly assimilate these technologies to increase productivity, safety and convenience in our homes and workplaces.  These technologies are fully present and poised to disrupt the expectations of our members.  Every association leader should be aware of these trends, and evaluating when and how to engage them to the benefit of your members.
My Toolbox – I’m often asked about my favorite association technology tools.  As a futurist, the list changes quite often.  Here is a list of most-recommended applications for our association clients.
Office 365 – no brainer. This collection of applications and cloud solutions from Microsoft supports everything from desktop productivity and file sharing to unified communications. Supported on all my devices (iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro, and Microsoft Surface).
Higher Logic – hands down the most capable and reliable community platform for associations.
Hootsuite – when combined with a content curation tools such as UpContent presents a powerful suite of social media tools – training is always a challenge where change is abundant.  I highly recommend that my association clients purchase full seats for every employee.  There are over 8,500 courses available.  I have constructed playlists that are specific to every client situation.
AMS’s – the association management system (AMS) space is fragmented and the right choice is highly dependent upon the specific needs of the association.  No single application ‘does it all’.  CIMATRI has worked with dozens of AMS, LMS, and CMS applications.  We’re happy to help you select one that fits your needs.
Remember… Think Different… and Change the World. -rb